NFPA: LODDs hit 43-year low in 2019

Last year was also the first year since 1977 with no multiple-fatality incidents, according to the NFPA's report released this week


By Laura French

QUINCY, Mass. — Fewer U.S. firefighters died in the line of duty last year than in any other year since 1977, according to the National Fire Protection Association's most recent firefighter fatalities report. 

The report, which was published on Monday, states that 48 firefighters died in the line of duty in 2019, the lowest number since the NFPA began conducting research on firefighter fatalities 43 years ago.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that on-duty firefighter fatalities reached record lows in 2019. (Photo/NFPA)
The National Fire Protection Association reported that on-duty firefighter fatalities reached record lows in 2019. (Photo/NFPA)

Last year was also the first year since 1977 that no multiple-fatality incidents were reported, according to the NFPA. 

Of the 48 firefighters who died in the line of duty, 25 were volunteer firefighters and 20 were career firefighters. One firefighter was employed by a federal land management agency, one was employed by a state land management agency and one was a civilian employee of the military. 

Sudden cardiac arrest remained the most frequent cause of on-duty firefighter deaths, with 22 cases in 2019, and overexertion, stress and medical causes accounted for 54% of last year's fatalities.

Vehicle-related incidents accounted for nine on-duty fatalities; four firefighters were killed in vehicle crashes, four were struck by vehicles and one fell from a moving apparatus. 

Fireground deaths accounted for 27% of fatalities, 10 at structure fires and three at wildland fires. 

Overall, sudden cardiac arrest deaths, vehicle crash deaths, deaths at structure fires and deaths of volunteer firefighters hit record lows last year.

However, the NFPA added that its report does not fully capture the hazardous nature of firefighter, noting that, in 2019, the International Association of Fire Fighters reported 130 cancer deaths and the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance reported 119 deaths by suicide. 

"It is important to note that one year's experience cannot be interpreted as evidence of a trend, and we know already that the death toll in 2020 will likely be higher as a result of the COVID-19 deaths that have already been reported," the report concludes. "But there are promising indications that real, sustained progress has been made in reducing deaths in some categories, such as cardiac-related issues, structure fires, and vehicle crashes."

Read the full report here: 

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